Wednesday, December 8, 2010
This is a bleak outlook, and not the only possible future, but it is disconcerting how far we have already gone down this road without even noticing. How much farther will we get before enough people notice that change is possible? The college I work for just switched over to Google Apps to handle all our e-mail and communication needs on campus - all students, faculty, staff and administration are now on Gmail all day every day. I wonder if the people in the upper echelon even stopped to consider the possible implications of it - more likely they are unaware of them all together.
Sorry for the burst of dystopia, a lot of what we discuss brings it out in me. There is always a chance that it will all work out. That Google and others will use their powers for good and not evil, right?
Is the fact that this is the second time I have referenced 1984 in these discussions indicative of something?
I very much enjoyed my time in this class. I will admit that I felt a little out of my depth at times, but overall I think that I was given a great deal to think about and the things I have read and discussed here will influence the rest of my time in grad school and, hopefully, my career. I think that overall, the modules I appreciated the most, the ones that I think I got the most out of in practical terms, were 3 and 4 dealing with copyright laws. I learned a lot about a subject that I had been previously ignorant of and that is very relevant to my future goals. If I had to pick a favorite discussion though, including my personal favorite post, it would be the WikiLeaks module. It was a perfect and timely way to examine so much of what we had discussed and learned about in class and it brought up a lot of complex feelings and ideas. Much like this course as a whole.
Thanks for a great semester everyone and happy holidays.
While reading Andrejevic’s article (or rather skimming it after I saw the word “ubiquitous” a handful of times), I was surprised at how much Big Brother is watching. The story of his friend with the DVD in Australia was a bit scary in that the computer knew where the friend was and wouldn’t play parts of the DVD. Why not? Does Australia have restrictions on their information? In some ways, it is nice because then the news that people receive can be tailored to where that person is. In other ways, I don’t like that people know what I’m looking at online (not that I have anything to hide, but that it is none of their business). But see, there we go again. If a terrorist is looking at information, wouldn’t we want to know it so we can stop him before he kills anyone? So, I guess it’s a fine line there on whether to allow this or not.
My favorite topic would have to be the Challenged and Banned books topic. I felt that this topic was the most relevant to my library work. I wasn’t too impressed with the Wikileaks discussion as I felt that he had no right to post any of the information he did. I’m almost glad that he’s been caught and put into jail. I had a feeling about him and it wasn’t good and the fact that he ran and tried to hide from authorities just helps to make it so. But that’s just my opinion…..
Happy Holidays to everyone!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Everything in moderation…
It’s a maxim we learned as children…to be observant and circumspect of excess. Like my classmates, I’m often concerned about the seemingly omnipresent and omnipotent nature of electronic surveillance. But then I remember that the computer…the Internet…is just a tool (albeit a culturally significant tool…). And when one realizes the ease at which a step back can be taken, and how the scene widens with a little distance, one can possibly realize then too that it is a tool we wield. I would argue that the Internet does not control us…but that we control it. If become concerned with the availability of personal information - like buying habits, topics of interest, relationship status, etc – then we have wandered into the realm of observation and understanding. We can moderate what we provide – there is no rule stating otherwise. You know me as Tecumseh – a name that I’ve never used on the Internet before – and a name I will never use again. And though I’m a bit more suspicious than some, there is a rebelliously empowering feeling one gets by relying on cash rather than credit – on the postal service rather than Google – in an attempt to tread lightly without leaving behind a trial. The power has always been with us.
I learned a lot and was enticed to venture out of my ‘comfort zone’ by many of your posts and responses. One thing about a blog I find interesting is the ability to retrace one’s steps and relive specific topics. I look forward to re-reading the posts, this time backwards - from most recent to the very first. Its been a trip! thanks
Monday, December 6, 2010
Andrejevic's article discusses the frightening possibility of Microsoft searching through computer hard drives in order to determine how best to advertise to the computer's user: "The software could conceivably gather information on every file on a user’s hard drive and send it to advertisers, and the application does
little to assuage security and privacy concerns" (Hoover, 2007). Now that it's 2010, I wonder if programs like this are in place. Perhaps they are. And that's unsettling. As we have studied during these 14 weeks, we librarians should advocate for privacy and confidentiality in today's technology. It feels like we need to make a stronger push for change.
This semester, my favorite module is when we learned about sampling in week 4. I really enjoyed the Youtube video about the Amen Break sound clip; I've added it to my Youtube favorites. My favorite blog post was also the one I wrote for week 4. That was quite an inspiring week.
Thanks for a lovely semester. I will miss reading everyone's new posts each week and learning about a new, exciting topic each week.
For anyone interested in a dystopian vision of where "ubiquitous computing" may be headed in the future, I strongly recommend the book Feed by the excellent YA author M.T. Anderson. It imagines a world where humans have a device implanted in their heads that allow them to have the Internet in their field of vision 24/7. It is a nightmarish book and Anderson makes some startling points about the Internet and the commercialism it has become associated with.
It's hard to pick out a favorite unit because I found the subject matter every week to be engaging and contemporary. The units on copyright were particularly interesting for me being a long time music geek. It was nice to take a peek behind the curtains and to think about the ways in which copyright can negatively impact artistic expression.
However, I have to say that the WikiLeaks unit could not have been better timed and I've found myself swept up in the ongoing drama surrounding WikiLeaks these past couple of weeks. As an aside, does anyone else think it strange that this leak of diplomatic cables brought far greater blow back than did the Iraq or Afghanistan document dumps? Since Cablegate, WikiLeaks has suffered DoS attacks, been chased from Amazon's servers (at the apparent request of Joe Lieberman) their bank accounts in Switzerland have been frozen and some on the right (Sarah Palin & Newt Gingrich in particular) have called for the US to treat Assange as an "enemy combatant." I find this to be slightly curious.
Also, in relation to WikiLeaks, and tangentially related to our topic this week of the shifting notions of privacy in our digitally connected world, did anyone else see that Colombia University's School of International and Public Affairs warned its students not to discuss WikiLeaks on social networks, such as, Twitter or Facebook. Apparently, the concern was that doing so may impact students' prospects for government jobs. Colombia has since walked back that advice, but my initial thought when I saw the story was, "I hope no one in class has an application pending with the State Department."
For those interested here's the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/06/columbia-university-walks_n_792684.html
My favorite post was Barriers to Access. Because I got to use the words defecate and micturate.
Good night, good luck, Happy Holidays. It has been a pleasure to discuss these topics with everyone.
Having someone looking out for us relates well to my favorite part of the class, WikiLeaks. I was surprised how interested and yet interested I was in it. On one hand, it seems very important, but since it's just a big fat dump of information without any good organization I can't get excited about sifting through it. That said, following the story that has been developing recently has been very interesting to me. I just read today how Amazon and Paypal have cut off WikiLeaks, things certainly are changing at a rapid pace.
Actually, I am somewhat concerned that companies can track us wherever we go and see whatever we do online….all in the name of profit. It’s not the “1984” motif that scares me…it’s the realization that people actually purchase items based on the suggestions presented by the companies…sometimes in frightening blind faith. However, the advertisement strategy must be working or they wouldn’t be doing it. What does it say about our collective psyche as a society? “Please tell us what to buy/watch/think?” Frightening.
One of my friends is a TV addict and has this thing called T-Voh (sp?) which he can use to record tv programs and play them back later. Sounds great! He was all “T-Voh is awesome!” Then, after a few days, T-Voh began making suggestions and telling him what to watch. He tried to turn off the “make suggestions” function but T-Voh wouldn’t stop. Many times it pre-recorded its suggestions allotting no free space to the programs my friend wanted to record. Way to go T-Voh.
Maybe the digitized world will become like T-Voh. A world where nothing that is suggested is what we want and where there are so many suggestions that it becomes impossible to find what we actually need. For example, I have a heart condition and may need another open heart surgery. In the digitized world, I may be looking heart surgeons but, because I have my teeth clean every year, all I find are “suggested dentists in my area”. How the bleep does that help me T-Voh? ;)
Kidding aside, it is for us to decide scenario would make the world a better place? Which is more likely to become the reality? With luck, those two questions have the same answers.
My favorite post this semester was Daniel’s Ban Hammer Blog. I especially like the comment “I keep thinking about how it seems many people are of the opinion that if a library possessing a piece of material it also means they agree/approve of said piece of material.” I am also a fan of the picture. It reminds me of a D&D character I played once…I realize that this may not be the most “academic” of comments, but it is the one truest to my personality. GEEKS UNITE!!!!!
Thanks for a wonderful semester and a great finish to my grad degree!!! Good luck Everyone!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Thank you, Sarah and colleagues, for making me really think and question my own role in the world of information at my local level and also on a much larger scale. I wish this could've been a face-to-face class because I think the conversations would've been awesome! As a middle-ager, I have to say I am excited for the future of our profession due to the intelligence, passion, and commitment I sense from online interactions I've had with all of you.
I've found WikiLeaks absolutely riveting, and down the road, I think we'll be telling others that we were taking this class during the height of the controversy. These are strange times indeed and also pivotal on a number of fronts. An informed constituency is more important now than ever.
I think I've been most struck by the diversity of opinions during class and the nuances of meaning that class members brought to issues. I thank all of you for making me stretch my frame of reference and opinions. For me, Week 6's discussion about the ethics of access was particularly personal and important. Week 9's module on TCEs was also interesting. I've been exposed to so much that I may never have otherwise seen/read/listened to. How cool is that!
One of my favorite blog posts is Diana's from the TCE week. Hopefully, I've correctly added its link below:
Happy holidays to you all! All the best both professionally and personally, and I hope our paths cross again!
The nuances and standpoints in this debate are very interesting, and go well beyond the kind of black-and-white soundbites you might hear on network news, for example. Check it out if you have a few minutes.
Here is the link to the debate, which you can also read as a transcript on the same site.
At any rate, I think the other concerns the author mentions worry me more. I think we really do need to consider who is gathering information and how that organization will control and leverage that information. That is, private companies have motives, namely profits, that do not necessarily align with the public's interests. As some of Andrejevic's examples show, private companies may find it more profitable to bow to the requests for censorship from governments, like China (example about censoring of a blog, pg. 311-312), rather than support freedom of information. It is the possibility that private companies will use the networks and, as Andrejevic refers to them, enclosures to censor ideas, create and enforce strict intellectual property protections, and use information and data stored on their servers to their commercial advantage but the disadvantage of the public or certain subsets of the public.
As I read the article, I thought of a lecture one of my law professors (Shubha Ghosh) gave on the commercialization of data. He suggested that in the context of the commercialization of data/information the profit seeking goals of private companies conflict with the public's interest of transparency and accountability. I think that is an interesting concept because the public does want information to be accessible and free but private companies want to keep information private so that they can charge organizations and individuals large amounts of money in order to access the information.
I found this course very interesting and thought provoking; I enjoyed reading others views on the issues covered. I think this final article was a nice way to end the course because it draws in many ideas we already discussed and made me think about many topics we have already discussed: privacy and whether loss of privacy will hinder intellectual freedom because people will not search for certain things or read certain things because they know everything they do online is monitored; do we want the government to have control or a hand in providing access to information; and do intellectual property rights and laws fit into a networked, digital society.
Like Alcibiades, I am not going to link back to a post of my own but a classmate's post; I liked Diana's post on tensions in libraries because it is a good reminder that the issues we have discussed really do pop up in real life situations, http://lis661.blogspot.com/2010/10/module-6-tensions-in-access.html.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
First of all, let’s assume all this is true: companies like Google are tracking your spending habits, the websites you visit, and even monitoring your location via your wireless devices. Computers then take all that information, process it, and send you an advertisement. Wow. I feel so alienated from my labor. Attention: nobody is forcing you to buy that product! It’s a suggestion, an enticement, not a gun to your head. Andrejevic makes it seem as if we are mindless cattle who will respond to whatever ads we receive. He goes so overboard, it’s hard to take him seriously. While all this is certainly a developing issue for our current age, and one that deserves a national dialogue, he needs to present the threat better. People won't be motivated by receiving advertisements. And what is his proposed solution? Municipal wi-fi networks? That seems like a pretty small response to the EXTREME privacy threat he perceives. And it ignores the fact that people are more and more liable to access the internet from their mobile devices, which would still be under the constraints of that encroaching cloud, the “prison” he fears.
OK, I could go on and on ripping Andrejevic. But better to use this as a chance to reflect on the broader issue of information privacy. We are facing an unprecedented situation, and we do need to start thinking about the implications of allowing companies like Google and Microsoft to control our data. This, as I said above, requires a national dialogue. How many people are aware that these companies are tracking all that information? Some, certainly. Most won’t care, because the trade off is real convenience and (let’s face it) some pretty cool technology. But there is a significant segment of America’s population that is very protective of its privacy. How can we present the threat in a way that will mobilize this segment into action? In my opinion, Andrejevic needs to reconfigure his message in a way that will resonate with the public. Continually invoking Karl Marx, and making vague references to the enclosure of the English commons is probably not the best strategy in this country. Just saying.
My reflections on the course lead me to this conclusion: it is up to us to find a means and a message to more effectively communicate the potential danger to the American public. We are the ones equipped with the knowledge of what Google is doing, and what the implications are for privacy and liberty. We are the ones who must work to lobby congress and other governing institutions to ensure our constitutionally protected freedoms are not imperiled by the corporate machinery. To do so, we must investigate the potential dangers, beyond just targeted advertisements. I think we all have a vague idea about what those dangers are, but let’s put some real effort into formulating a concrete message to deliver to the public. We must draft serious policy. We must work with Google and Microsoft to find common ground. These corporations are not totally evil: Google has been involved in a recent dispute with China over censorship, and Microsoft’s founder is one of the world’s greatest philanthropists. It’s too simplistic to paint these companies as unstoppable forces of evil out to enslave us.
I feel as if I could go on and on, but blog posts are supposed to be short and sweet. I have enjoyed this course tremendously, especially the opportunity to engage the rest of you on this blog. Rather than fulfilling Sarah’s request to link to a favorite post of mine, I am instead linking to a post by Tecumseh. This one really connected with me at the time and still gives me chills.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
|Amazon's Web Statement|